« ПретходнаНастави »
had been successful. The boys rushed to the mark and lifted the turkey on high, and with nothing but the remnant of a head.
The Pilot was Cooper's next work-his first sea story; and it not only demonstrated the versatility of his genius, but also proved it to be master of a creative and pictorial energy exceeding any evidence yet given“The ships with whose fortunes we have to do in this story interest us like creatures of flesh and blood. Long Tom Coffin is probably the most widely known sailor character in existence."'*
We present a condensed extract from this work, which may well stand as one of its many great battle pieces, with Long Tom Coffin prominently in the foreground.
BATTLE BETWEEN THE ARIEL AND THE ALACRITY.
The English cutter held her way from the land until she got an offing of more than two miles, when she reduced her sails to a yet smaller number, and, heaving into the wind, she fired a gun in a direction opposite to that which pointed to the Ariel.
“Now, I would wager a quintal of codfish, Master Coffin,” said Barnstable, “ against the best cask of porter that was ever brewed in England, that fellow believes a Yankee schooner can fly in the wind's eye! If he wishes to speak to us, why don't he give his cutter a little sheet and come down ?”
The cockswain (Long Tom Coffin) had made his arrangements for the combat with much more method and philosophy than any other man in the vessel. When the drum beat to quarters, he threw aside his jacket, vest, and shirt, with as little hesitation as if he stood under an American sun, and with all the discretion of a man who had engaged in an undertaking that required the free use of his utmost powers. He was standing at the breech of his long gun, with his brawny arms folded on a breast that had been turned to the color of blood by long exposure, his grizzled locks fluttering in the breeze, and his tall form towering far above the heads of all near him.
'Keep a good full!” cried the commander, in a stern voice, "und let the vessel go through the water. That fellow walks
Duyckinck's Cyclopædia of American Literature.
well, Long Tom; but we are too much for him on a bowling though, if he continue to draw ahead in this manner, it will be night before we can get alongside him.”
Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain; "them cutters carry a press of canvas when they seem to have but little; but it's no hard matter to knock a few cloths out of their bolt-ropes, when she will both drop astarn and to leeward."
“I believe there is good sense in your scheme, this time," said Barnstable; “speak to him, Tom, and let us see if he will answer.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” cried the cockswain, sinking his body in such a manner as to let his head fall to a level with the cannon that he controlled, when, after divers orders, and sundry movements, to govern the direction of the piece, he applied a match, with a rapid motion, to the priming. An immense body of white smoke rushed from the muzzle of the cannon, followed by a sheet of vivid fire, until, losing its power, it yielded to the wind, and, as it rose from the water, spread like a cloud, and, passing through the masts of the schooner, was driven far to leeward, and soon blended in the mists which were swiftly scudding before the fresh breezes of the ocean.
Barnstable sprang lightly on a gun, and watched the instant when the ball would strike, with keen interest, while Long Tom threw himself aside from the line of the smoke with a similar intention; holding one of his long arms extended towards his namesake, with a finger on the vent, and supporting his frame by placing the hand of the other on the deck, as his eyes glanced through an opposite port-hole, in an attitude that most men might have despaired of imitating with success.
“There go the chips !” cried Barnstable. “Bravo! Master Coffin, you never planted iron in the ribs of an Englishman with more judgment; let him have another piece of it, and if he like the sport, we'll play a game of long bowls with him !"
“Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain, who, the instant he witnessed the effect of his shot, had returned to superintend the reloading of his gun; “if he holds on half an hour longer, I'll dub him down to our own size, when we can close, and make an even fight of it.”
The drum of the Englishman was now, for the first time, neard, rattling across the water, and echoiug the call to quarters, that had already proceeded from the Ariel.
“Ah! you have sent him to his guns !” said Barnstable; shall now hear more of it; wake him up, Tom-wake him up.'
“We shall start him on end, or put him to sleep altogether, shortly,” said the deliberate cockswain, who never allowed himn. self to be at all hurried, even by his commander. “My shot are pretty much like a shoal of porpoises, and commonly sail in each other's wake.”
“Hurrah! Tom, hurrah!” cried Barnstable, a little impatiently ; " is your namesake never to open his throat again !"
“Ay, ay, sir; all ready,” grumbled the cockswain, "depress a little; so—s0; overhaul that forward fall more; stand by with your match-fire."
This was the actual commencement of the fight; for as the shot of Tom Coffin traveled, as he had intimated, very much in the same direction, their enemy found the sport becoming too hot to be endured in silence, and the report of the second gun from the Ariel was instantly followed by that of the whole broadside of the Alacrity. The shot of the cutter flew in a very good direction, but her guns were too light to give them efficiency at that distance, and as one or two were heard to strike against the bends of the schooner, and fall back, innocuously, into the water, the cockswain, whose good humor became gradually restored, as the combat thickened, remarked with his customary apathy—“Them count for no more than love taps-does the En. glishman think that we are firing salutes!”
“Stir him up, Tom! every blow you give him will help to open his eyes,” cried Barnstable, rubbing his hands with glee, as he witnessed the success of his efforts to close.
Barnstable watched each movement of his foe with eager eyes, and when the vessel had got within a lessened distance, he gave the order for a general fire to be opened. The action now grew warm and spirited on both sides. The shouts of the young sailors, as they handled their instruments of death, became more animated and fierce, while the cockswain pursued his c«ccupation with the silence and skill of one who labored in a regular vocation.
“Give it them!” occasionally cried Barnstable, in a voice that might be heard amid the bellowing of the cannon; never mind their cordage, my lads; drive home their bolts, and make your marks below their ridge-ropes.”
In the meantime the Englishman played a manfuil game. He
had suffered a heavy loss by the distant cannonade, which no metal he possessed could retort upon his enemy; but he strug. gled nobly to repair the error in judgment with which he had begun the contest. The two vessels gradually drew nigher to each other, until they both entered into the common cloud created by their fire, which thickened and spread around them in such a manner as to conceal their dark hulls from the gaze of the curious and interested spectators on the cliffs.
The heavy reports of the cannon were now mingled with the rattling of muskets and pistols; and streaks of fire might be seen glancing like flashes of lightning through the white cloud which enshrouded the combatants, and many minutes of painful uncertainty followed before the deeply-interested soldiers, who were gazing at the scene, discovered on whose banners victory had alighted.
The fire of the Ariel was much the most quick and deadly, both because she had suffered less, and her men were less exhausted; and the cutterstood desperately on to decide the combat, after grappling, hand to hand. Barnstable anticipated her intention, and well understood her commander's reason for adopting this course, but he was not a man to calculate coolly his advantages, when pride and daring invited him to a more severe trial. Accordingly, he met the enemy half-way, and as the vessels rushed together, the stern of the schooner was secured to the bows of the cutter, by the joint efforts of both parties. The voice of the English commander was now plainly to be heard, in the uproar, calling to his men to follow him.
Away there, boarders! repel boarders on the starboard quarters!” shouted Barnstable through his trumpet. This was the last order that the gallant young sailor
with this instrument, for, as he spoke, he cast it from him, and seiz: ing his sabre, flew to the spot where the enemy was about to make his most desperate effort. The shouts, execrations, and tauntings of the combatants, now succeeded to the roar of the cannon, which could be used no longer with effect, though the fight was still maintained with spirited discharges of the small
“Sweep him from his decks!” cried the English commander, as he appeared on his own bulwarks, surrounded by a dozen of his bravest men; “ drive the rebellious logs into the sea !”
Away there, marines!" retorted Birnstable, firing his pistol
at the advancing enemy; "leave not a man of them to sup his grog again."
The tremendous and close volley that succeeded this order nearly accomplished the command of Barnstable to the letter, and the commander of the Alacrity, perceiving that he stood alone, reluctantly fell back on the deck of his own vessel, in order to bring on his men once more.
“Board her! gray-beards and boys, idlers and all!” shouted Barustable, springing in advance of his crew—a powerful arm arrested the movement of the dauntless seaman, and before he had time to recover himself he was drawn violently back to his own vessel by the irresistible grasp of his cockswain.
“The fellow's in his flurry,” said Tom, “and it wouldn't be wise to go within reach of his flukes; but I'll just step ahead and give him a set with my harpoon.”
Without waiting for a reply, the cockswain reared his tall frame on the bulwarks, and was in the attitude of stepping on board of his enemiy, when a sea separated the vessels, and he fell with a heavy dash of the waters into the ocean. As twenty muskets and pistols were discharged at the instant he appeared, the crew of the Ariel supposed his fall to be occasioned by his wounds, and were rendered doubly fierce by the sight, and by the cry of their commander to—“Revenge Long Tom! board her; Long Tom or death!”
They threw themselves forward in irresistible numbers, and forced a passage, with much bloodshed, to the forecastle of the Alacrity. The Englishman was overpowered, but still remained undaunted-he rallied his crew, and bore up most gallantly to the fray. Thrusts of pikes and blows of sabres were becoming close and deadly, while muskets and pistols were constantly discharged by those who were kept at a distance by the pressure of the throng of closer combatants.
Barnstable led his men in advance, and became a mark of peculiar vengeance to his enemies as they slowly yielded before his vigorous assaults. Chance had placed the two commanders on opposite sides of the cutter's deck, and the victory seemed to incline towards either party, wherever these daring officers directed the struggle in person. But the Englishman, perceiving that the ground he maintained in person was lost elsewhere, made an effort to restore the battle by changing his position, followed by one or two of his best men.